By STAN MADDUX
BEDFORD, Ind. — A family with Hoosier roots in farming that date back more than 160 years is being honored for mixing the old with the new in its operation.
Stan and Ann Armstrong are the 2018 recipients of the John Arnold Award for Rural Preservation.
The longstanding award given annually by Indiana Landmarks and Indiana Farm Bureau recognizes farmers who preserve and incorporate history into their modern food production capabilities.
“We have tried to instill a sense of pride and respect in the heritage of this farm to our children and grandchildren. We hope they will want to continue this legacy,” Ann Armstrong said.
The Armstrong’s operate Spring Creek Cattle Co. in southern Indiana on ground that’s been in the family since 1855.
The farm headquarters is an 1873 homestead. “While we’ve made changes throughout the years to accommodate family needs, we maintained the integrity of the farmhouse, making sure the siding, windows and shutters on the additions match the original house,’’ Stan Armstrong said.
The large historic barn on the property is used for storing hay and birthing calves. It’s also a holding area for weaned calves and housing machinery. The barn also features the original Fairbank Scale purchased and used in the cattle operations of their ancestors in the 1880s.
Stan repaired the scale which remains in use today.
Other examples of their preservation work include using the old corn crib for storing cattle feed and converting the springhouse into space for bee-keeping equipment. The original granary is now a warming room for newborn calves.
Also maintained are other historic barns and outbuildings added over the past several decades to the farm which now consists of about 225 brood cows, bulls and replacement heifers on more than 1,100 acres in Lawrence County.
Tommy Kleckner, director of the Indiana Landmarks’ western office, applauded the couple for continuing to use some of the buildings for their original purpose and finding alternate uses for the other ones.
Kleckner, who grew up on a farm in Iowa, leads the selection process for choosing the winner of the award.
“They inherited an appreciation for the family’s long agricultural heritage and they’ve passed that appreciation on to their daughters and even their small grandchildren,” he said.
Their daughters, Alex, Sarah and Jennifer, are active on the farm in areas like record keeping and coming up with new product ideas.
For example, they added hops for home and craft breweries to the crop mix on the farm known for its Angus and Angus Simmental cross cattle and alfalfa hay.
Corn and soybeans along with timothy and teff grass are rotated throughout the fields to help maintain good soil content.
Other conservation oriented practices on the farm cited by Indiana Landmarks include regular soil testing, no-till practices to minimize erosion and utilizing wells as watering sources to avoid polluting streams and ponds.
Stan said his great-great-grandfather, John, started the cattle operation with a “frontier work ethic” and desire to make his new farmland into a place to raise his family.
“His descendants have followed that tradition continuously to today,” said Armstrong, noting Ari Armstrong, one of his great-great-grandfather’s sons, went on to raise 19 children.